A Better Bedtime

Tips For A Better Bedtime

Bedtime can be a challenging time of the day for both parents and children. Specialists agree that children need steps each night that are predictable to help them transition into sleep. Nighttime routines ease the transition by making your child feel comfortable about what to expect at the end of each day. By setting a routine, parents can allow their children to respond to cues that will help them move from playtime to bedtime more smoothly. Setting a plan can help make evenings less stressful, for everyone!

Time to Wind Down

Routines for bedtime begin in the evening before your child’s head even touches the pillow. It is suggested that transitions to sleep are more difficult if the activities leading up to bedtime are high energy, such as running around or even watching TV shows or movies that are high action. Begin to lower your child’s activity level and prepare for relaxation through quiet play.

Create the Bedtime Plan

The idea is to have a bedtime routine that works best for your child. This routine will set the foundationbetter-bedtime of events that you and your child can consistently follow in the same order each evening. As your child grows, the actual routine is likely to change, but the basics will remain the same.

There is not one routine that is going to work for all children and families. Bedtime routines should be a combination of what is practical and personally preferred. So parents, keep this in mind and decide what is going to be best suited for your child. What matters most is that the routine is consistent.

Depending on your child’s age, verbal cues and reminders of steps might not be beneficial. The use of visual charts or checklists are suggested so children can see what is coming next. The process of creating a routine can be interactive and can provide an opportunity for your child to be involved in “owning” his/her bedtime. This also helps to instill a sense of responsibility in your child. The intention is that as children grow, they will be able to go through the checklist with less and less facilitation and be able to complete the bedtime routine on their own.

Again, there is not a one size fits all routine! Below are some suggestions of options to consider in the creation of your child’s bedtime routine.

Activities to Consider in a Bedtime Routine:

  • Cleaning up: Have your child put away toys or help clean up play areas from the day. This can help signal and provide a cue that playtime is over.
  • Snack: Depending on dinnertime or what parent’s prefer, a light snack and drink before bed can help satisfy nightly hunger.
  • Preparation for tomorrow: Part of the routine could include preparing for the next day. This could be setting out lunch box, picking out clothes, or gathering school materials. (This makes the morning run a little smoother too-BONUS!)
  • Bath time: A warm bath helps regulate your child’s temperature and can help signal relaxation to induce sleepiness.
  • Brushing Teeth: This is important for your child’s hygiene and can be another step in the ending the day process.
  • Pajamas: Having your child pick out the pajamas for the each night can be fun activity. However, parents should try to limit their child’s pajama options to two or three choices so that it does not become a daunting task.
  • Picking out books: Let your child choose a book or two, again establish the number of books they can choose so you can avoid the “ one more book please.”
  • Reading: Reading of books should be done in the child’s sleep environment
  • Bedtime yoga: There are benefits to nightly yoga for children. These relaxation stretches and movements help your child’s body wind down.
  • Quiet music: Music can be played while the child is going through other steps or can be played quietly as the child drifts off into sleep. Some children have difficulty falling asleep if it is too silent, quiet music can be a great way to provide some background noise and it is suggested that the music have no lyrics.
  • Picking favorite stuffed animal or doll: Your child may have a favorite teddy bear or doll they prefer, this can be comforting to have when falling asleep.

If parents take turns with bedtimes, they should have a similar style as to continue with the routine. While this does not mean parents need to follow identical scripts, response styles should be similar.  If you have more than one child, it is suggested that bedtimes be staggered in time. This way, each child can benefit from a calming story or goodnight cuddle. It might also be a good idea for parents to switch off in their roles in the bedtime routine, that way each parent will get some alone-time with each child before the day is over. Once in bed, keep the lights low. Saying “goodnight” should be short and could include talking about how the day went or what is going on tomorrow. Telling your child something he or she did during the day that you were pleased with will help to send your child off to sleep on a positive note!

Click here to learn about sleep disorders in children.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

5 Helpful Hints to Get Your Child with Autism to Sleep

Children with developmental disabilities and autism are at greater risk of sleep problems (40-80% in comparison to 20% of children without developmental disabilities).  Problems can include all aspects of the sleep process, including trouble falling asleep when needed, waking frequently throughout the night, and waking early in the morning hours.  Given what we know about how sleep impacts our attention, emotional regulation, and socialization, it is that much more imperative that we help our children with developmental disabilities be well rested.

Why do children with developmental disabilities have more problems with sleep?

While speculative at this time, evidence thus far points to the following explanations:5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

  1. Biological: Children with developmental disabilities show higher rates of circadian rhythm disturbance and lowered levels of melatonin.
  2. Social: children with developmental disabilities struggle with interpreting social cues, including those cues that indicate inform bedtime.
  3. Sensory: children with developmental disabilities exhibit disturbances in sensory processing. Because of this, minor bodily complaints, noise, light, and tactile input can disrupt a good night’s sleep.

If your child with autism or other developmental disabilities struggles to sleep well, the following strategies can help:

  1. Keep a sleep diary to recognize patterns in your child’s sleep. You may discover a precipitating cause or consistent trend causing the difficulties.
  2. Create a visual schedule of the bedtime routine. Knowing the routine and consistently following it can help the child prepare for bedtime.
  3. Have the child engage in calming activities one hour prior to bedtime. Screen time is prohibited due to its stimulating effects and interference with melatonin production.
  4. Provide the necessary sensory input that your child needs. They may require a weighted blanket for deep pressure, sound machine to drown out extraneous noises, or dim lights prior to bedtime to cue the child that sleep is approaching.
  5. Melatonin supplement use has been shown to be helpful in children with developmental disabilities but should always be discussed with your pediatrician and approved by them before beginning any regimen.

Read more about sleep disorders in children here.

Need help with getting your child with autism to sleep? Contact one of our sleep expert specialists.


7 Ways to End Bedtime Battles

Bedtime battles are a common issue among many parents with young children. However, putting your child to bed atend bedtime battles night can become an enjoyable time where you can wind down and spend some quality time with your child. By following a few simple guidelines, the bedtime routine can turn into a more enjoyable experience for the whole family.

7 Tips for a Smooth Bedtime:

  1. Keep the Time for Bed Consistent, and Create a Nightly Routine to Follow – Children respond really well to routines, and it will help them learn what is expected each night.  It will also make the whole bedtime process easier for everyone.
  2. Avoid the Use of Electronics the Last Hour Leading Up to Bedtime – Instead of your child playing video games or watching a movie, have her engage in more calming activities such as reading, coloring or taking a bath before bed.
  3. Gradually Transition Into Bedtime – Do not suddenly tell your child that it is time for bed. Instead, give warnings that bedtime is approaching starting about 45 minutes before she needs to be asleep, and then remind your child again 15 minutes before she needs to be asleep.  Continue to give warnings right until it’s time for bed.  If your child does not yet fully understand the concept of time, you can use a timer to help.
  4. Always Remain Firm but Calm – Never negotiate when you child does not want to go to bed, or if your child gets out of bed repeatedly. Calmly tell your child that it is time for sleep, and lead her back to her bed. In this situation, the less talking, the better.
  5. Adjust Nap Schedules if Necessary – If you notice that your child does not appear tired during her regular bedtime, consider adjusting her nap schedule or eliminating naps altogether.
  6. Give Your Child Choices During the Bedtime Routine – When children have choices, it gives them some degree of control.  This sense of control is likely to make them more compliant. Examples of choices that can be given at bedtime include what books to read, which pajamas to wear, or how many stuffed animals to keep in bed.
  7. Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep Alone in Her Own Bed -These are good skills to teach at an early age.  If your child begins to fall asleep only when a parent is in the room, or only when she is in her parent’s bed, this can become a habit that is difficult to break. Teaching independent sleep early will help alleviate many future bedtime struggles.

Click here for advice on how to deal with night terrors.  For more information on healthy sleep habits, contact our behavior therapy team.

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